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Syttende Mai

May 17 @ 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Syttende Mai

May 17, 2024

Vesterheim invites everyone to celebrate Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day!

Syttende Mai is the day Norway ratified its constitution in 1814 at Eidsvoll and Norwegians celebrate with excited crowds—especially children—marching through the streets, waving flags, and singing songs.

Vesterheim’s celebration includes free admission all day with a Children’s Parade throughout Vesterheim Heritage Park, a performance by Decorah’s Nordic Dancers, hands-on crafts, live music with fiddler Erik Sessions, ice cream, and more. The concert with Erik Sessions will be live streamed on Vesterheim’s YouTube channel.

10:30 am: Guided tours of the historic buildings in Heritage Park.

11:30 am-12:30 pm: Hands-on craft making in the lobby of the Museum Building.

12:40 pm: Storytelling inspired by Norwegian themes with Marcia Fox in the Museum Building.

12:00-1:00 pm: Performance with fiddler Erik Sessions in Vesterheim Commons and live streamed on Vesterheim YouTube. Join in person or at youtube.com/vesterheimmuseum. Erik Sessions has played the violin and fiddle for 45 years. He is known throughout the area for his skill and talent playing solo and with several dance bands.

1:00 pm: Children’s Parade throughout Vesterheim Heritage Park. Norwegian flags will be given out, and everyone is invited to march along.

1:15 pm: Free ice cream treats from Decorah’s Sugar Bowl.

1:30 pm: Decorah’s Nordic Dancers on Mill St. next to the Museum Building (after a brief welcome from Vesterheim President/CEO Chris Johnson)  The Nordic Dancers began in Decorah in 1966 and include a senior and junior group of dancers. The dancers begin as third graders and make a 10-year commitment to continue through high school.

2:30 pm: Guided tours of the historic buildings in Heritage Park

In case of inclement weather, the parade and Nordic Dancers will be canceled. All other activities will continue as planned.

Syttende Mai is made possible by a generous gift to the Vesterheim Annual Fund from Jeff and Marilyn Roverud. 

Below are some fun family activities to add to your Syttende Mai Celebration!

Click here for activities that families can do at home together. Be sure to make your own Norwegian flag for your Syttende Mai celebration!

Plus, watch the video instructions on the right for how to make your own Norwegian flag windsock or waving streamer with things you can find around the house! Thanks to Chivonne Marlow, Vesterheim Visitor Services Manager, and Jennifer Kovarik, Vesterheim Youth Educator, for sharing their expertise.

In this video from 2021, Norwegian storyteller Anne Elisebeth Skogen told the story, Schoolgirl and My Very First May 17th Parade in 1962. Anne Elisebeth grew up in the little town of Egersund, Norway, south of Stavanger. With an education in drama and storytelling, Anne Elisebeth runs her own storytelling business, telling stories for schools, organizations, festivals, and companies.

Watch the video until the end to see Decorah musicians Beth and Jon Rotto (playing fiddle and rhythm guitar, respectively) playing Norwegian and Norwegian-American tunes from the Bethania Church in Vesterheim’s Heritage Park last year. Beth and Jon are founding members of the dance band Foot-Notes, who have been playing for old-time dances in the Decorah area for over three decades.

In this video from 2022, Anne Elisebeth tells the story My Last 17 Mai in My Hometown, Now as a Red Russ, her memories of russefeiring, a long-standing tradition for high school graduates in Norway.

Learn how to greet people on Syttende Mai! Take this short Norwegian language lesson from Maren Johnson, Assistant Professor of Nordic Studies at Luther College.

Every party needs food and this bløtkake recipe is perfect for Syttende Mai! This version is from Vesterheim Folk Art School instructor Darlene Fossum-Martin, Vesterheim, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2008 – Food for Thought.

Darlene starts with a basic sponge cake that can be adapted for any version of bløtkake and then continues with her special variation of rosemary, pears, raspberries, and kiwi filling. Find the recipe here and enjoy!


May 17
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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